Archive | Teen Christian Fiction RSS feed for this section

Perfectly Invisible

21 Oct

Perfectly InvisibleKristen Billerbeck

Publisher: Revell

Publication Date: 2011

Paperback: 272 pages

Book Blurb:

It’s Daisy Crispin’s final trimester of high school, and she plans to make it count. Her long awaited freedom is mere months away, and her big plans for college loom in the future. Everything is under control.

Or is it?

Her boyfriend is treating her like she’s invisible, and her best friend is selling bad costume jewelry in the school quad and hanging out with her boyfriend. To top it off, Daisy’s major humiliation for the year will be remembered in the year book for all eternity. It’s enough to make her wonder if maybe being invisible isn’t so bad after all.

Stand alone or series: This is the second Universally Misunderstood Novel, the first was Perfectly Dateless—a personal favorite.

Why I read this book: As I said above, I loved the first so I was not going to miss the second.

Review:

Daisy is at it again. Graduation is just a few months away, and Daisy can’t wait to get out, especially with Claire acting even crazier than normal. As always, she has it all planned out. But the more she tries to hold on to her perfect plan, the more it falls apart. Her dreams could snuff out like a light, or God could trade them for brighter ones.

The cast is as quirky as quirky as ever and I love them for it! Mrs. Crispin is still making all Daisy’s clothes, including a violet suit. Claire has traded spider nose rings for “trings,” don’t ask, she’ll tell you all about them anyway. Gil is eating onions, which is apparently a bad sign. And while Max makes her feel as if her heart has traded places with a butterfly, he’s distant and she can’t figure out why.

That being said, I must be honest with you. As much as I loved Perfectly Dateless, Perfectly Invisible fell a little flat for me. It could be that my expectations were too high, but I think it had more to do with the climax. I won’t give it away, but I will tell you I didn’t buy it.

If you are a lover of Perfectly Dateless, I’d go ahead and read it anyway. Like I said, the characters are still great. Just adjust your expectations accordingly. If you haven’t read Perfectly Dateless, check out my post from December 17 and have fun. Happy reading!

Advertisements

Tournaments, Cocoa, and One Wrong Move

23 Sep

Tournaments, Cocoa & One Wrong MoveNancy Rue

Publisher: Zondervan

Publication Date: 2010

Paperback: 256 pages, and every one it flew by!

Book Blurb:

Everything seems to be going right for Cassidy Brewster—she’s the star of her high school basketball team, has a near-perfect GPA, and college recruiters are showing up at her games. But during the state tournament she injured herself, and her season appears to be over. With pressures at home and school, Cassidy turns desperate and makes choices that only increase the number of problems in her life. As Cassidy’s carefully controlled world falls apart, a mysterious book begins to speak to her, and it just might contain the answers Cassidy has been trying to find.

Stand alone or series: This is book three in the Real Life series. A series which I recommend for all teen girls and those who care about them. Though it is a part of a series, these are four stories of four separate girls and can be read in any order (maybe I should wait until I’ve read the last one to tell you that for certain) or as stand alones.

Why I read this book: Nancy Rue rocks! She hooked me on the first book in this series. Before I had finished Motorcycles, Sushi, and One Strange Book, I’d bought the next three. It’s definitely a choice I do not regret.

Review:

Cassidy’s life is all about control. She controls her skills, her team, and her body. Her father controls her. When she loses control and damages her knee, her world spins out of control.

Though you probably won’t notice while reading, however Nancy Rue has mastered the craft of structure. She builds and builds and builds the story, putting Cassidy through more than we thought possible, and then pushes her further.

In between the pages, you’ll find a cast of characters that you seen walking the halls of your high school. I remember girls like Kara, boys like Rafe, and other girls like Ruthie. I only wish I’d gotten to know those people as well as I know the incredible characters in this novel. The kids as well as the adults are vibrant and lovable, especially those who feel unloved. The kids learn to find their identity in a place greater than society’s labels. Which, as many of us know, is no easy feat.

This is a powerful story of a young girl who thinks she has it all together. It appears to her, her family, and the rest of the school, that she is perfect—the perfect player, the perfect student, the perfect daughter. Only when the veneer of perfection falls away is she free and open to discover Jesus and true perfection.

This book is for athletes, loners, perfectionists, lovers of chocolate, those who the world has written off as “losers,” and kids struggling to connect with parents who are disengaged or far too engaged. Really, this book is for everyone. Cassidy and her friends’ struggles and triumphs are a part of every stage of life, though they may come in different forms. Once again Rue has put heart and soul to paper.

Boyfriends, Burritos and an Ocean of Trouble

20 May

Boyfriends, Burritos and an Ocean of TroubleNancy Rue

Publisher: Zondervan

Publication Date: 2010

Paperback: 219 pages

Book Blurb:

Secrets? Bryn O’Connor is good at keeping secrets. But when a car accident reveals her boyfriend’s abusive behavior, the truth is unleashed. And it starts a tidal wave of trouble in Bryn’s life: enemies who were once friends, a restraining order violation, and her world unraveled. If that weren’t enough, her grandmother Mim arrives, attempting Mexican cuisine and insisting that Bryn try surfing. It’s all too much! Even Bryn’s habit of daydreaming won’t offer an escape this time. But could a mysterious book she found hold the secret to riding a tsunami like her life?

Stand alone or series: It’s kind of both. This is book two in the Real Life series, however the novels follow the Real Life book (a mystical, physical book within the novel) instead of the girls. At the end of each novel the book is passed on to someone new and they are the person we see featured in the next book.

Why I read this book: I bought the rest of the series before I finished the first book because I really liked the characters, the writing style, and the problems she faced. I didn’t realize until I read the book two excerpt that it would be an entirely new set of characters and problems. The thought of reading about an abusive boyfriend made my stomach turn, but I’d bought it so I figured I should read it. I’m glad I did.

Review:

Bryn’s been covering for Preston—high school hunk, senior, and Olympic swim candidate—for weeks. But that ends the night of the crash. When nurses first discover the bruises Bryn swears she won’t tell, until they accuse her father. Then she lets the world know about her boyfriend’s possessive, controlling behavior and her world comes crashing down.

Suddenly, she’s the victim to her father, sister, the cops and doctors—an object to be pitied and treated like glass. To the rest of the school, controlled by Preston and his friends, she’s the liar and she must be broken at all costs. The only person who treats her like the beautiful, strong woman she is, is Mim—and Bryn does not trust her surf-school instructor grandmother.

While threats are flowing and the trial date is looming, Mim teaches Bryn to surf. At first the waves buffet and bully her just as her former friends are doing, then Bryn learns to ride and finds that maybe, with a little help from God, she can ride the waves in her life too.

I loved the twists and turns in this book. My heart broke for her, but that makes the satisfaction when she finds her strength all the sweeter. Mental and physical abuse from boyfriends and partners is a growing concern. I know I once was unable to understand how someone could let that happen, until it happened to someone close to me. This girl was smart, beautiful, incredible. And at first their relationship was all butterflies and roses. Then small problems began, forgivable issues because she loved him, she told herself. By the time the physical abuse started she was so deep into his way of thinking that she honestly believed she’d done something wrong, that she’d done something to deserve it. Bryn is much like my friend, she could be much like your friend or your daughter or you. What I love about this book is that it helps the reader to understand how to see the signs and how to recover. And it helps you find empathy for those who have gone through this terrible experience.

I’ve found the Real Life books to be educational about common issues facing teens as well as entertaining. This book is not only to be read if you or someone you know has suffered abuse. This book is for all girls. It is a story of strength and hope and love, inspirational to all.

If We Survive

8 Apr

If We SurviveAndrew Klavan

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Publication Date: 2012

Paperback: 340 pages

Book Blurb:

They
 came on a mission of mercy, but now they’re in a fight for their lives.

High schooler Will Peterson and three
friends journeyed to Central America to help rebuild a school. In a poor,
secluded mountain village, they won the hearts of the local people with their
energy and kindness.

But in one sudden moment, everything
went horribly wrong. A revolution swept the country. Now, guns and terror are
everywhere—and Americans are being targeted as the first to die.

Will and his friends have got to get
out fast. But streets full of killers . . .hills patrolled by armies . . . and
a jungle rife with danger stand between them and the border. Their one hope of
escape lies with a veteran warrior who has lost his faith and may betray them
at any moment. Their one dream is to reach freedom and safety and home.

If they can just survive.

Stand alone or series: Stand alone.

Why I read this book: I was searching for books outside my usual genre on the Thomas Nelson website and came across this novel.

Review:

Boy, this book was a shock to the system. It starts with a bang, quiet literally. Will Peterson went to Costa Verdes to build a wall, and to get away from his parents. When an upheaval takes place on the last day of their mission trip, he doesn’t know if he’ll ever see his parents again. Now he, and the five Americans with him, are trapped in a hostile land.

This novel was… breathtaking, gut-wrenching, heart stopping. The adrenaline-pumped pace starts on the first sentence of the prologue and it doesn’t stop. I couldn’t eat before, during, or after reading because the story made my stomach turn. It’s incredibly well written, but certainly not for a young audience. Violence abounds. The violence is not gratuitous, it fits perfectly into the story and scenario, nevertheless it’s hard to read.

The author’s pacing is impeccable. The plot goes hard and fast for much longer than made me comfortable. Then, just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, Klavan allows the reader a breath… Just for a second. Just long enough to make me think I could get through to the end.

The characterization was also superb. The group is small, just a band of six, so we get the time and detail to really learn about, and care for, each of them. We know their quirk, their reactions, their thought processes, and their flaws. We become invested in the survival of each character. The stakes rise higher and higher the more we care.

The writing is masterful, but the content is not for everyone. The entire time I read it I felt unsettled, edgy, and stressed. I read it fast because I couldn’t handle the panicky feeling it instilled in me. But I know I tend to be more squeamish than average.  So if you like action and don’t mind the violence as much this novel is perfect for you. You are in for a treat.

(For parents, this book is geared mainly towards boys and I would suggest caution. I would place the age range of this novel at at least 17+.)

Motorcycles, Sushi and One Strange Book

25 Mar

Motorcycles, Sushi, and One Strange BookNancy Rue

Publisher: Zondervan

Publication Date: 2010

Paperback: 221 pages

Book Blurb:

Normal? While family dinners and vacations to touristy destinations are ordinary events for her ‘normal’ friends, fifteen-year-old Jessie Hatcher’s normal life means dealing with her ADHD and her mother’s bipolar disorder. So why is Jessie shocked when the unexpected happens? Now her ‘normal’ includes living in Florida with the father she always thought was dead and learning the secrets of sushi from a man who teaches by tormenting her. Life isn’t any saner with her dad, but a cute guy and a mysterious book might just be the crazy Jessie needs.

Stand alone or series: It’s kind of both. This is book one in the Real Life series, however the novels follow the Real Life book (a mystical, physical book within the novel) instead of the girls. At the end of each novel the book is passed on to someone new and they are the person we see featured in the next book.

Why I read this book: I am interested in teen novels dealing with real-life issues. I’ve found many novels that gloss over the difficult parts and I’m always interested when a novel tackles those issues head-on.

Review:

Jessie’s life is messed up and she doesn’t even know it. To Jess her mom’s In-Bed Phases, where she doesn’t stir from her darken room for days or weeks, and her No-Bed Phases, where she cleans the house with a toothbrush and designs shoes, are normal. Her friends think her hyperactive flip-outs and bouts of wild behavior are funny and that’s why they keep her around. To make matters worse, her father shows up—the father she thought was dead since her birth.

Lou, missing father, walks in to a situation he couldn’t have imagined. When bad goes to worse, he takes Jess home with him to Florida. Her biggest fear is that her father will discover her “disorder”, as her ADHD has been referred to her whole life.

The writing was impressive. Rue writes the first few chapters so deep into Jess’s head that I felt ADHD as I read them. I started to fidget, my thoughts and speech became more disconnected. I was going up the wall. Yet Rue knew just when to cool it down. Right before I was about to throw the book at the wall to stop the insanity, she pulled back to focus more on the story than the style. It was a perfect maneuver and I was hooked—I had a lot of sympathy for the poor girl.

Yet Rue does not make Jess out to be a “poor girl.” That’s what I love about the Real Life series. Jess begins in a horrible situation in which she has no control. Then with the help of God, and a stabilizing adult figure, she takes control of her life. She stops surviving and starts to thrive.

This was a great book. (Don’t read it during finals when you need to concentrate thought.) I would recommend this book to all teens, though it is largely geared towards girls. I would also suggest this book to parents. I’m still closer to the teen side, than to being a parent of a teen, but I thought the parenting style of the dad was pretty cool. I enjoyed watching the way he handled a number of situations. Again, don’t start this book when you need to concentrate, but you should definitely start… and finish it.

Lost in Dreams

31 Dec

Lost In DreamsRodger Bruner and Kristi Rae Bruner

Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc

Publication Date: 2011

Paperback: 368 pages, but for me this was an e-book

Book Blurb:

Join eighteen-year-old Kim Hartlinger, as she arrives home from a life-changing mission trip to a remote Mexican village. This second novel in a new series for teen girls will challenge your faith-and capture your heart-as you journey with Kim through the biggest struggle of her life and faith.

(P.S. I’m so sorry this blurb tells you nothing. Worst one I’ve read yet. However, not an accurate reflection of the novel. Plenty of substance there.)

Stand alone or series: This is the second in the Altered Hearts series. It follows Lost in Dreams which I loved. I didn’t know for the longest time that there was a follow-up because Lost in Dreams seemed like such a stand alone I didn’t even bother to look.

Why I read this book: Like I said, I loved the first.

Review:

When it comes to the timeline you could pick up the second book without noticing. When it comes to tone however there couldn’t be a bigger difference. Kim is still riding the planes home from Santa Maria when the book begins. The fun and formidable Aleesha is with her through the first connecting flight and man do I love that girl. Aleesha tells Kim about the Season of Pebbles—a time in our lives when many things go wrong—and Kim’s Season is about to begin in full swing.

Warning: The next two paragraphs contain spoilers.

Kim’s mother dies in a car accident on her way to pick up Kim at the airport. The grief and depression that follows engulfs Act 1 and makes for an incredibly different read than Found in Translation. It’s intensely sad. I found myself on the verge of tears for hours as I worked through the first part. About a quarter of the way through the book things take an upward turn when she is invited on another mission.

Not that the first part isn’t important, but the missions part of the book is my favorite. It’s the same funny, uplifting, conflict filled plot that made the first so great. Here’s were the Christian message starts to shine through and pick Kim up from the depths she was in and picked me up as well.

This book has some old characters and some new ones. All of whom are multi-layered, caring and more than a bit cheeky. The Bruners really do a great job at character building as well as with missions—through their description as well as the outreach that their novels provide. The lives of the characters are wholly centered on God and I find that refreshing.

I’m more hesitant to recommend this novel than the first. Not because it wasn’t as excellently written as Lost in Dreams. Act 1 was so sad and if anyone reading this is like me, I can’t help but imagine “What if this happened to me?” That being said, the sadness of Act 1 made the transformation in the next two acts all the more beautiful. I still recommend this novel, but be prepared. I certainly wasn’t.

Perfectly Dateless

17 Dec

Perfectly Dateless

Kristen Billerbeck

Publisher: Revell

Publication Date: 2010

Paperback: 257

Book Blurb:

Daisy Crispin has 196 days to find the right date for the prom. There’s only one problem—her parents won’t let her date or even talk to a guy on the phone. Oh, and she’s totally invisible at school, wears lame homemade clothes, and possesses no social skills. Okay, so maybe there’s more than one problem.

Can she talk her parents into letting her go to the prom? Or will they succeed at their obvious attempts to completely ruin her life?

Perfectly Dateless is hilarious, shocking, and totally real. You’ll fall in love with Daisy’s sharp wit and resourcefulness as she navigates the world of boys, fashion, family and friendship.

Stand alone or series: Series! Thank goodness, I just can’t get enough of Daisy and her mom.

Why I read this book: Daisy reminded me of me. An A type personality who has a lot of trouble fitting in in high school, who loves to write, works hard and saves like crazy, and tries to follow God’s will even when it’s hard.

Review:

Daisy is a character that I can relate to. She wants to fit in, but can’t get it quite right. She’s an uptight girl who makes a plan then executes it down to the T. Daisy is too focused on working hard, whether that’s getting the grade or saving up some money. But it’s these smarts that make her so sassy. Her snappy quips hit the mark every time and had me rolling or shaking my head in agreement.

If there’s one thing Kristen Billersbeck excels at in this novel is characterization. The quirky cast of Perfectly Dateless is vividly drawn, from the boys she crushes on to her crushingly strict parents. Claire is Daisy’s best friend who goes through phases like they’re days of the week—her Goth period is complete with dark poetry and a plastic spider nose ring. Amber’s “lanky, mile long body” is equipped with golden tresses and a razor-sharp tongue that can be sweet as sugar when she’s trying to steal the hazel-eyed Chase Doogle. And then there’s Mrs. Crispin…

Besides Daisy, I think Mrs. Crispin is the best written character. She would get barely a sentence out and my hands would start to clench. According to Daisy, her mom’s favorite word is irreverent and she believes that keeping her daughter in ugly, ill-fitted clothes is suffering for her faith and not suffering for bad fashion choices.

My favorite, and possibly the most painful, scenes to read where between Daisy and her mother. This is where Kristen Billerbeck’s wit really begins to shine as words fly between mother and daughter. But what made it more interesting than the hundreds of other mother daughter conflicts was how God centered it was. Even though Daisy disagreed she always tried to be respectful towards her mother. And some ages old Christian debates about modesty, dating and what it means to live a Christian played out between them in a way that left me wanting to hear more.

I could go on about plots and twists and boys, but I don’t want to spoil it! I would recommend this book to teens and moms as a fun read that will not only leave you laughing but also leave you thinking about where you stand on these issues.